Sunday, May 11, 2014

My UK Trip - The Beginning

This post has been in the draft for more than a month. When I was in Harrogate, UK attending the 48th IATEFL Conference on the first week of April, I vowed to myself that I would blog about my experience as soon as I get home. I tried, but I couldn't. The thing is that I don't know where to start. The whole experience had been too overwhelming for me - it was my first IATEFL, my first time in UK, my first time abroad! So you can imagine the excitement - I was truly, truly overwhelmed. (Plus, the jetlag was bad - I had to deal with insomnia for almost two weeks. Writing a blog post would be the last thing on your mind when you were groggy from sleep deprivation).

I've posted a few photos from the trip on Facebook, but friends and family had been asking why there isn't more. They told me that I'm weird, people normally take and share a lot of pictures when they go on a trip. So okay, at first I decided to work on these posts especially for these people who've been 'asking for more'. But then I realised I don't want to let the moments pass without recording it somewhere, it was one of the most precious experiences in my life. I don't know if I would ever get the chance to experience it again in this lifetime or even the next. So I guess I would be working on a series of posts in a travel-log fashion. I would try to document - as best I could - what I did, what I saw and what I felt every day throughout my trip. Not just during the conference, but throughout the whole trip. These series of posts would be more like my 'outdated' travelling diary.

Where shall I begin? In the final chapter of Alice in Wonderland, when they were all in court and the White Rabbit were asked to read out some verses written on a piece of paper which they thought was an important piece of evidence, the White Rabbit asked the same question: "Where shall I begin?" The King replied: "Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop."

That's exactly what I'm going to do here.

The Beginning

The beginning was when I knew that I had won the Onestopenglish Creativity in the Classroom scholarship in November last year. I was notified through an e-mail sent by the IATEFL scholarship committee. I remember being elated and nervous at the same time. I had been dreaming of going to UK. I had been dreaming of attending IATEFL. I couldn't believe that these dreams were about to come true.

After a few months of preparation, I was ready to go. My flight from Kota Kinabalu was on March 29 at 5.35 p.m. My brother Ian and his wife Edna saw me off at the airport.

With my sis-in-law, Edna outside the boarding hall at KK airport

A snapshot with my brother, Ian before I entered the boarding hall

The flight stopped at Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei for about two hours. The next flight was at 8.55 p.m. I had to fly for over 8 hours to Dubai, and then another 6-7 hours to London-Heathrow. For someone who hates flying so much, I can say that that part was my least favourite moment throughout the entire trip!

I'm in the UK!

It was 6.40 a.m. on Sunday (March 30, 2014) when I arrived at London-Heathrow airport. 

When the flight attendant announced, "We have landed at London-Heathrow airport", my heart leapt. I'm in the UK! I needed a few seconds to let that fact sink in as I waited in line on the aisle to get off the plane. I knew that I was going to spend all of my time in London at the airport, there was not enough time for me to go sight-seeing because I had to catch another flight to Leeds. But still, this wasn't Tawau airport, or KK airport, or KL airport. I would be setting foot on London-Heathrow airport - one of the largest and busiest airport in the world! Haha. Forgive my 'over-excitedness,' but it was my first time. A kampong girl on her first trip to a land very, very far away from her humble hometown. 

I know I would reread this post someday in the future, look back at those moments and then laugh at myself. For now however, I'm just going to put down this few scribbles so that this poor school teacher from North Borneo would never, ever forget how this trip had made her feel.

London-Heathrow Airport
London-Heathrow Airport
In a cafe at the airport
My first meal in the UK - croissant and a cup of coffee


I took another flight to Leeds. Upon arriving, I took a taxi to Britannia Hotel where I had booked a room through the Internet. I chose the hotel because it's the nearest to Leeds-Bradford Airport. I used - great service and totally reliable. I wouldn't have problems recommending it to everyone.

I stayed a night at the hotel, before continuing my journey to Harrogate where the IATEFL conference will be held. 

It was really cold in Leeds. Brrrrr...

Britannia Hotel Leeds - the view from the outside

Britannia Hotel Leeds - the reception

The Journey to Harrogate

I checked out from Britannia Hotel in the afternoon of March 31st, because I needed to go to Harrogate. It's a 30-minute drive from Leeds. I was thinking of taking the bus, but the hotel staff told me that the bus station is quite far from the hotel, and with my big luggage it would be best to take a taxi.

In the taxi

Leeds - view from the taxi

Leeds - from the taxi window

Leeds - a snapshot from the moving taxi


The taxi dropped me right at the front door of the Cairn Hotel.

Cairn Hotel, Harrogate
My first thought when I saw it: Wow!

On the day that I arrived there, I posted this photo on Facebook. A friend commented that it looks gothic - is it haunted? Haha. I responded by saying that it could be, the floor creaks when I walk. It's an old hotel - I love old buildings, so I think the Cairn Hotel is really, really beautiful. I enjoyed my stay there tremendously.

To be continued...

So, I think I'm done with 'the beginning of the beginning.' I arrived in Harrogate a day earlier, the pre-conference event started the following day on April 1st. I thought it was perfect because I had the time to walk around the town, and to find where the conference venue is. I would be writing all about it - the real beginning - in my next post. 

So...I guess that's it for now. Till the next post! -ccj

(Read the next post here: My UK Trip - Harrogate Day 1)

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